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Street: NZ Association of Private Education

3 September 2008 Speech

Speech to the NZ Association of Private Education

Providers

Notes prepared for Associate Tertiary Education Minister Maryan Street’s speech to the NZAPEP annual conference at Te Papa

Tēnā koutou and warm Pacific greetings to you this morning.

NZAPEP President, Karl Yates; members of the NZAPEP Executive; delegates; ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here to open the first full day of your conference.

I have a real passion for tertiary education and since taking up this portfolio last November, I have made it a priority to understand more fully some of the challenges that the sector faces.
You’ll also see from my regular appearances this week that I have a strong commitment to working with tertiary private providers, and I enjoy your thorough and engaged contribution.

I am pleased by the progress that is being made to develop a tertiary education sector that is even more pivotal to the success of New Zealand and its prosperity.

This year’s conference theme ‘Private Tertiary Education – a new era’ aptly reflects this progress and the path we are all on as we settle into the new way of planning, funding, monitoring and quality assuring tertiary education.

The PTE sector is characterised by its diversity, flexibility and responsiveness. We must celebrate and support these characteristics as much as possible.

You come in many different sizes, exist for different purposes and, not surprisingly, vary in your contribution to our tertiary education system.

You deliver a wide variety of programmes ranging from foundation learning to degree-level qualifications in highly specialised areas.

Many of your organisations have a prominent presence in our regions, particularly in smaller more remote areas. In some cases, a PTE is the only way for people to participate in tertiary education locally. This makes you highly valued by the communities you serve.

You also have the ability to engage with students from all types of backgrounds – some who might not have experienced success in education before. Many of you have an excellent track record working with our young people.

I have had the pleasure of visiting several PTEs. At one visit recently I spoke at random to students of all ages. Responses were invariably positive, excited and committed to improving themselves and their prospects through tertiary education.

Looking ahead, it is essential the tertiary education system continues to support the PTE sector to develop its role and continue its important and successful work.

As the PTE sector settles into the new system, NZAPEP has a crucial role to play. As the largest of the four peak bodies that represent PTEs in New Zealand, you have brought an articulate and constructive voice to the table.

Of course, you might not have always got everything that you wanted but I am positive that your input has been used to inform – and will continue to inform – decisions made by the government that have an impact on PTEs’ future.

I also congratulate NZAPEP on its continuing drive to improve quality, including the work done by the Quality Commissioner who is speaking on Thursday.

This push for higher quality is totally in line with what the Government wants. It will not only achieve better outcomes for students but improve the way government money is invested.

What the new approach to investing in tertiary education does is further clarify and strengthen the relationship between government and the PTE sector.

As you know, from 2009 well over 300 private training establishments will move on to Investment Plans. This is on top of the 31 PTEs that moved on to Plans last year.

I firmly believe the Investing in a Plan approach holds the key to unlocking unrealised potential in our tertiary education system. It provides a strategic and consistent way to invest effectively to meet economic and social goals within an environment of limited resources.

Having all government-funded PTEs on Investment Plans will be an important milestone. I thank PTEs for the way in which they have worked and will continue to work with the TEC at this pivotal time.

These Investment Plans will ensure greater alignment across the entire sector. They provide a mechanism through which PTEs and the TEC can deal with the issues getting in the way of what PTEs do best – delivering education and training that meets the real needs of a broad cross section of students and stakeholders.

Obviously there will be some challenges and issues to address as we implement Investment Plans. Your conference materials highlight several, and it is good to see engagement on these topics. I will address some of these here.

Overdelivery.

This seems to be the biggest issue presented to me by PTEs, and I’d like to reiterate the principle for this policy and also reassure you about its implementation. Through the Investment Plan system, we aim to achieve tertiary delivery that is both well signalled and gives certainty to both providers and students over time.

As you’ll be aware, the previous demand-led system led to real uncertainty for stakeholders, as well as for the government’s significant investment in tertiary education.

However, we also recognise that the PTE sector in particular has experienced a history of overdelivery. Therefore the TEC will take a pragmtic approach in implementing this policy. The approach signals a direction of travel towards better planned provision, rather than as a cliff-face for provision.

Of course the government also has the ability to respond with increased investment to meet emerging needs for PTE delivery. This Labour-led government recognises the importance of the sector.

That’s why our Student Achievement Component funding for PTEs has increased from $18 million in 1999 to $132 million in 2008, including CPI adjustments. This doesn’t include the additional $158 million invested through targeted training grants such as Youth Training and Training Opportunities.


Equity for providers and equity for students.

The PTE sector has done a credible job in increasing the number of Maori and Pacific students in tertiary education. In 2007, 25% of PTE students were Maori and 11% were Pasifika. These figures are higher than Maori and Pasifika participation across public providers.

PTEs have asked why they are not allowed to access equity funding. This seems a fair question, and my colleague Hon Pete Hodgson and I have in turn asked TEC officials to explore the merits of opening up equity funding to PTEs. Although the amount of funding involved would only be around $500,000, it does appear to be an important principle.

As a sector, you also have a lot to contribute to vital new government initiatives – in particular, the New Zealand Skills Strategy and Schools Plus.
I make a point of mentioning these initiatives as they are likely to have an impact on the future direction of the PTE sector.

Government, the Industry Training Federation, and social partners – the Council of Trade Unions, and Business New Zealand – share a vision for transforming our economy through innovation and higher productivity.

We know that lifting our skills base is critical to realising that vision so together, we developed the New Zealand Skills Strategy and Action Plan, which Prime Minister Helen Clark launched in July.

The Action Plan will advance all levels of skills. These include literacy, language and numeracy skills; trade and technical skills; degree-level qualifications; and also specific management and leadership skills.

PTEs’ history of assisting people of different ages and backgrounds to attain new skills and make a bigger to contribution to society and the economy puts you in an excellent position to contribute to the success of the Skills Strategy.

Looking at some of the specifics, PTEs have an important role to play in helping people in our workforce acquire literacy, language and numeracy skills for tomorrow’s employment environment.

It is estimated that more than 800,000 New Zealanders need to enhance their literacy, language and numeracy skills if they are to be successful in the workplaces of the future.

The government made a major commitment in this year’s budget of $168 million over the next four years to support the enhancement of these skills.

Last month, the Tertiary Education Commission released the Literacy, Language and Numeracy Action Plan which details how this investment will be spent.

The new funding includes a significant expansion of the Workplace Literacy Fund over the next four years.

For PTEs already involved or able to develop appropriate expertise, this will mean increased opportunities for you to deliver literacy and numeracy training to employees in the workplace.

Tertiary education organisations are also being encouraged to build literacy and numeracy learning into their existing programmes and qualifications.

This involves ensuring literacy and numeracy skills are taught within existing programmes, rather than isolating them in separate blocks of learning.

Research shows that integrating literacy and numeracy teaching in other programmes is the most effective way for students to build these vital skills. Research also shows that increasing the focus on literacy and numeracy improves course completion and retention rates.

I know that for a number of PTEs, integrating literacy and numeracy within other programmes is not a new concept. Many of you already do this. I would like to encourage you to look into how you could step up your contribution to enhancing people’s literacy and numeracy skills.

Many of you are doing that by increasing the number of staff you have studying for literacy and numeracy educator qualifications. I am pleased to report that government is playing its part in this: Budget 2008 included $7.5 million to support literacy and numeracy educators to increase their own skills.
Parallel to the work within the Skills Strategy, another strategy has also been developed and implemented – Schools Plus.

Schools Plus is a bold plan to lift the education and skills attainment of teenagers and ensure their involvement in education for longer.

I believe PTEs can also play an important role in the success of Schools Plus policy. This is because your organisations provide a pathway for further education and the development of skills beyond the classroom.

Indeed, there are numerous examples where PTEs have used innovative approaches to engage young people who have not necessarily experienced success in other parts of the education system.

As the policy work on Schools Plus continues, I encourage you to explore the role your organisations could play to improve the continued engagement of teenagers in education.

It is enormously important that the diverse organisations that make up the PTE sector understand and get behind the initiatives I have just outlined.

Together, through NZAPEP, we are working out how your sector could best contribute. I have already been discussing this objective with NZAPEP, other peak bodies and individually with some of your organisations.

These new initiatives and the new investment environment are not necessarily a recipe for expansion. Instead, they allow us to take a strategic view and ensure we use available funding to best effect. Of course, that might mean some changes to some of the things that PTEs currently do but only if those changes result in better outcomes for students.

Together, we can make the most of the diverse contributions you bring to tertiary education in New Zealand.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you this morning. Tēnā koutou katoa.

ENDS

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